Let's start with some of the changes! While change is inevitable, that doesn't mean it's convenient or welcome. This year, a lot of the changes that happened were expected, but a few happened far quicker than we ever thought. The biggest, as I mentioned, is the pending loss of my Grandma Derby (age 83), who is in her final days as I write this. Grandma has been in poor health for the last two years after suffering what appears to have been some kind of stroke. Even so, she was still able to attend church, join us at dinner, and spend time reading emails and playing games on the computer. In October, though, her health took a turn for the worse and she was in the hospital for a few weeks and a week in physical rehab before coming home just before Thanksgiving and being on Hospice. It's been a steady, but expected decline since then to the point now she's barely communicating anymore and is showing clear signs of internal shut down. It's been quite a change having her the way she was for 2 years and now like this for the last 2 months, but even so, it will be quite a change to not see her at all anymore soon. I'm almost 35 and all 4 of my grandparents are still alive, so I consider myself pretty fortunate in that regard.
|Extended Ridinger family in July, our traditional (and final) five year photo|
Photo by Laura Ebie
|My immediate family with the spouses and kids in July, just before Isaac was born|
Photo by Laura Ebie
|With my siblings in July|
Photo by Laura Ebie
My other grandparents had their own changes as they moved to an assisted living facility in the area after 50 years in their home. It all happened in a matter of about 2 weeks after Grandpa (age 92) had some health issues and Grandma (age 86) realized she simply could not handle them on her own. I ended up living at their house for about 4 months (end of July-mid November) until my aunt and uncle could move in. Seeing that house, which hadn't changed much at all my entire life, change so much in the time I was there was truly surreal, but still quite the experience. I was still living over there when Grandma Derby first went to the hospital, so lots of changes all at once. And yes, I did enjoy having their house to myself for a few months. It was a nice change of scenery along with some wonderful solitude!
|Seeing as this room had almost no changes my entire life, seeing it empty out and then be repainted and re-carpeted was surreal! It was like I was living in some kind of alternate universe.|
Not all the changes have been negative, though. In April, my newest niece Samantha was born in Indiana, followed in September by a nephew Isaac in Tennessee. Of course I have been able to see both of them (as well as their siblings) several times already this year, both in Indiana and Tennessee, and even here in Kent!
|First time meeting Sammi in April...she was about 2.5 weeks old here|
|First time meeting Isaac in October. He was just over 1 month old here|
My 2016 was full of adventures, many of which were my typical road trips to Indiana and Tennessee to visit my siblings, nieces, and nephews. Those trips are always fun, and the trips this year were no exception. I also visited my sister Katie while she was living in Alexandria this summer, which included a side trip to Philadelphia. During my
|One of the MANY photos Katie and I got in DC...and yes it was ridiculously hot (97 F that day)|
|Got to finally meet Chris Zimmerman in person during my side trip to Philadelphia! We've corresponded on Facebook for awhile, so I was glad we could make the connection while I was in town. Great guy and does awesome photography and clothing for his company Violate the Dress Code|
My biggest adventure, though, was at the end of March when I was able to visit my sister Katie in Ukraine as she concluded her service in the Peace Corps. It was my first time out of the country since I visited the UK in 2007, so I was pretty excited, on top of seeing Katie for the first time in almost a year. While in Ukraine, we visited the capital Kyiv twice, as well as the cities of Lviv and Ternopil, where we got to see some incredible history and meet many of Katie's Peace Corps friends and associates. The main visit was to where Katie was stationed in Berezhany (Бережани) where I got to meet many of her students and her friends and associates at the Berezhany Internat (orphanage and school). It was a trip I will never forget and had an absolutely incredible time on. Hopefully in another year we can return to Berezhany to see all those wonderful faces and beautiful places!
|View of Berezhany from Katie's apartment|
|Some of Katie's students from the Berezhany Internat|
My other big adventure was in October when I sang the National Anthem for the Cleveland Indians. Yes, I've done it many times before, including twice previously in 2016 (July 8 and August 19), but at long last I was finally asked to sing at a playoff game when I sang for the American League Division Series opener against the Red Sox. Not only was the crowd revved up, but it was an over-capacity crowd. The cheers when I finished were so loud; something I'd never experienced before. It was an absolute thrill and I'm hopeful it will lead to additional opportunities in music and life in general. The morning just before I sang, I was interviewed by Channel 19 and Channel 8 in Cleveland as part of their respective morning shows, and the Kent State Alumni Association did a feature article on their website. I'll be featured in their alumni spotlight in the printed Kent State Magazine which will come out in March.
|Being interviewed by Tia Ewing and Brian Duffy from Channel 19 at Progressive Field|
|Being interviewed by Kenny Crumpton from Channel 8 at Progressive Field|
|You can see where I sang in relationship to the players...I'm near the upper right corner|
And yes, as I mentioned, I was able to sing for the Indians twice during the regular season, singing for the July 8 game against the Yankees and the August 19 game against the Blue Jays, where I did both the US and Canadian anthems. The Yankees game was my first time singing for a sold-out crowd and the Blue Jays game was my first time doing O Canada for the Indians (I've done it twice before at other venues). The other cool thing about the Yankees game was being able to have my two nephews on the field with me. It was their first time ever at Progressive Field and the team had these awesome gift bags for them. It was an all-around awesome night and experience! And seeing the team get to the World Series was awesome...hope it continues in 2017! I was also glad to sing several times for Kent State in several sports, including the Akron-Kent men's basketball game in February.
|With my nephews Ryan (age 4) and Nate (age 6), just before I sang in Cleveland on July 8|
I was also able to check off four more ballparks from my bucket list! As part of my visits to DC and Nashville, I visited Nationals Park in Washington and took a side trip up to Philadelphia (where I also got to meet Chris Zimmerman in person at long last!) to see the new Philadelphia LDS Temple and a game at Citizens Bank Park. During a trip to Nashville, I took a side trip to Atlanta and saw a game at Turner Field. I'm hopeful to get another visit to Atlanta in 2017 to see the new SunTrust Park, as well as get at least some of the east coast parks done (New York, Boston, & Baltimore). I also made a short trip up to Toronto at the beginning of July (which included a visit to Niagara Falls) and saw the Indians play the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, my first time in Canada since 2000.
|Rogers Centre in Toronto! Special thanks to the Blue Jays fans who offered to and then took this great picture!|
|Nationals Park, Nationals vs. Pirates|
|Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Phillies vs. Marlins|
|My Philadelphia trip also included a quick stop at the new Philadelphia LDS Temple, which was nearing completion at the time!|
|At Turner Field in Atlanta, Nationals vs. Braves (I moved around to several different seats during the game for different angles)|
2016 was by no means perfect and had its share of disappointments and setbacks, but overall, I feel like I made some good personal progress and that some things are in motion to make 2017 a good year as well. In the end, a year is an arbitrary measurement of time, so good or bad doesn't just disappear because the calendar suddenly rolls over, but it sure seems that way. And even with death looming for a family member as 2017 begins, I'm hopeful for the new year. It's certainly given me an additional perspective on all the celebrity deaths (which I can't say affected me at all...sure I appreciate and enjoyed their talents, but in the end, they're people I don't know personally and likely had no idea I even exist...). That said, on to 2017! Happy new year!